Chris Sugrue's digital bugsHelen Walters
In the name of featuring something which on the face of it looks like a purely artistic experiment, but bearing in mind the lessons learned from Bill Buxton, here’s Delicate Boundaries, a tech application/piece of design which is just gorgeous. Its creator, Brooklyn-based artist, programmer and designer Chris Sugrue, hasn’t created it in order to conquer the business world, but you can bet your life there is a smart commercial application for her work. For now, its existence and its means of development and production contain all sorts of lessons for those looking to harness innovation and creativity within their lives or businesses. Check out this Youtube video and, after the jump, an interview with Chris.
So, Chris. Tell us... what's this all about? The installation features an LCD display of these small bugs crawling about. If someone approaches and touches the screen, the bugs swarm towards their hand and suddenly crawl out of the screen onto the person's body.
How does it work? The piece works by combining a few common pieces of technology, but bringing them together in a unique way. A security camera and a digital projector are mounted from the ceiling above the computer screen. The camera captures a live video feed of people interacting with the work, and the software I developed analyzes the image to guess (quite accurately) where people are touching the screen and what parts of the image are hand or arms. If the software determines that a person is touching the screen, the bugs try to crawl off the screen and their image is transfered off the screen to the projection. Since the projection space and the camera image are aligned, the bugs appear on the person's body can stay within the boundaries of the arm.
What's the background to the project? I had previously been thinking a lot about how technology can be used to explore new interactions with the human body...
What were you aiming for when developing the installation? It had occurred to me that projecting images onto people in an installation space could create a really intimate relationship to the work. The challenge was that I wanted the audience to feel like they were holding the projection -- or that it was something physical and not that their bodies just become a projection surface. So I was already thinking about how I could change the perception of something digital.
Why bugs?? The bugs completed the narrative of the piece. I wanted the work to engage a sense of play, but also be borderline suspicious. I like that the audience can find magic in the work, but also question what is really going on behind the scenes. And not everyone wants bugs crawling on them -- even if they are digital.
Can it work on any scale? For now I have only displayed the piece on a small scale, but I would love the opportunity to develop a more extensive version with multiple projections. I also think there is a lot of potential to integrate the work into the architecture of a building.
What kind of technology did you use to write the program? I developed the software (with the help of a few other talented programmers) in C++ using OpenFrameworks, an open-source toolkit for artists and designers developed by Theo Watson [Ed's note: we featured Theo's work here] and Zachary Lieberman.